By BEN WEINSTEIN
With music as intricate as Battles’, it comes as no surprise that the trio puts the utmost consideration into every minute detail of their work. Both rhythmically and melodically the band’s music presents a lot for the listener to absorb, and when listening back on their previous albums today — especially 2011’s Gloss Drop — the songs feel just as potent as when first released several years ago. On their third LP La Di Da Di, Battles certainly have moments of success that stand alongside the most memorable parts of their previous releases. Unfortunately, many of these triumphs are nearly overshadowed by ideas that prove neither captivating nor memorable.
Both singles released from La Di Da Di, “The Yabba” and “FF Bada,” showcase the power of Battles at their most adventurous. Despite being the second-longest song on the record (clocking in at nearly seven minutes), “The Yabba” avoids overstaying its welcome. Just as the hypnotic synth and drum intro reach their most entrancing, guitarist Dave Konopka joins in with a sinister slide guitar riff that disappears as suddenly as it arrived. The remainder of the track finds infectious guitar and keyboard parts tied together by John Stamier’s always metronomic drumming, culminating in a frenzy of bright synthesizer arpeggios. The trio remain as cohesive as ever, and their musical interplay is only further highlighted on “FF Bada.” Dominated by the catchy, dueling guitar work of Konopka and Ian Williams throughout its four-and-a-half-minute duration, the song— if nothing else—feels painfully short.
Had Battles built even further upon the aforementioned tracks and condensed some of their ideas on the second side of the LP, La Di Da Di would be a far more consistent release. Tracks such as “Megatouch” and “Luu Le,” both among the longest of the twelve songs, best exemplify one of the album’s greatest pitfalls. The band, on many occasions, chooses to dedicate most of their time to their least interesting ideas. Battles have always been fond of repetition, and their live show largely consists of looping. Many of the band’s most brilliant moments are born out of their love for repetition, and the tracks on their new LP fall prey not to being repetitive, but meandering. Although songs like “Megatouch” do have redeeming qualities like the interesting synth sounds the band employs, there is nothing to be found of the invigorating Battles we know from previous releases. Instead, they spend the song’s length experimenting slightly with an idea that was never particularly stimulating to begin with.
Are these lackluster moments spread across the album’s 49-minute runtime bad? Not necessarily. For any other band, La Di Da Di might be an incredibly ambitious project that wins over plenty of fans. However, we know by now what the trio is capable of creating at their most effective, and- for the majority of this album- Battles don’t quite reach their peak. For example, when listening to “Cacio e Pepe,” a song that feels like a needless interlude, it’s hard not to wish that the band would take more risks with their sound. One of the most compelling aspects of the trio is their willingness to experiment, and as a result of this reputation La Di Da Di often falls flat. The album still deserves a fair listen, if only for the moments where Battles reach their full potential. It’s unfortunate that these same moments of brilliance must serve as a harrowing reminder of what could have been.
Essential Tracks: “The Yabba,” “Non-Violence,” “FF Bada”